Articles Posted in Trucking Technology

Every accident involving a semi-truck has the potential to result in serious injury or death. However, under-ride accidents present some of the highest risks. An under-ride accident occurs when a car or smaller truck rear-ends a large semi-truck, which is higher off the ground. As the vehicle coming from behind collides with the truck, the force of the collision sometimes sends the smaller vehicle underneath the semi-truck. These accidents are notorious for causing serious head trauma and even decapitation in some cases.

Not only do under-ride accidents present a high risk, but also they are remarkably common. Of the 400 deaths each year caused by cars colliding with the rear of a semi-truck, roughly one-third of them are due to under-ride accidents.

Aside from driving safely, semi-truck owners are also responsible for keeping their vehicles safe. This includes performing all necessary maintenance as well as installing required safety features. When a truck driver fails to keep their truck safe, they may be held liable for any accident caused by their negligence.

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The truck accident attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers are pleased to report that the number of auto fatalities has fallen over the past few years. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that deaths from traffic accidents fell in 2008 and have steadily fallen over the past three years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NTSA”) calculated that the number of auto fatalities were down 10% in the first ten months of 2008.

According to the Wall Street Journal, although experts in the field do not know what has caused this steady decline, they point to four factors that may have contributed to the recent decline:
• The economic downturn; researchers at the Governors Highway Safety Association (“GHSA”) noted that due to the economic downturn and increased fuel prices, many drivers have slowed their speeds to increase their vehicle’s fuel economy. A study by another government agency concluded that automobiles get their best gas mileage between the speeds of 30 and 60 miles per hour. For example, a 2005 Ford Focus traveling at a steady 40 miles per hour could get as much as 45 miles per gallon.
• Cars with greater safety features; recently, automakers have begun surpassing government automotive safety standards. For example, federal law will require all cars to have electronic stability control by 2012. However, most new cars currently come equipped with electronic stability control systems and rollover prevention mechanisms in addition to side curtain airbags and other safety features. Also, the number of vehicles that performed poorly in crash tests has decreased over recent years. In 2008, 11 of the 21 small cars tested by the Insurance Institute Highway Safety (“IIHS”) received good ratings in side impact testing, compared with only 3 of the 19 tested in 2006.
• Changing attitudes toward drunk driving; the number of drunk driving deaths have also decreased as many state governments have launched programs to make drunk driving socially unacceptable in addition to being serious crimes.

• Seat belts; The NHTSA found that 83% of drivers and passengers used their seatbelts in 2008, the highest rate in history. National “Click it or Ticket” programs seem to have helped reduce the number of unrestrained drivers and therefore increased accident survivability.

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In the early morning hours of June 29, a car carrying three adults and two children traveled down U.S. Highway 90 in Mississippi heading towards New Orleans. At approximately 2:25 a.m., the car crashed into the rear of a tractor trailer that slowed to spray mosquito fogger. The car underrode the semi, the trailer sheered through the car’s passenger compartment instantly killing the three adults in the front seat. The children fortunately survived the accident with minor injuries.

A truck “underride” collision occurs when a passenger car crashes into the rear of the tractor trailer and slides underneath the trailer. As a result, the trailer crushes or sheers away the top of the automobile, often killing the passengers. Victims who are not killed during underride accidents are likely to suffer severe brain trauma or extensive facial fractures. In litigating Maryland truck accidents, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have researched the underride accidents and ways to prevent them.

Readers of a certain generation will remember that the accident described above was the terrible crash that killed actress, Jayne Mansfield, her fiancée and driver in 1967. If the truck had been equipped with rear guards, Mansfield’s car may not have slid underneath the trailer and the actress and her companions may not have been killed. Rear guards or underride guards are the bars that hang below a trailer and have been required on tractor trailers since 1953. More recently, however, the federal government determined how to best configure underride guards. In 1998, after years of testing, the National Federal Highway Administration released standards regarding the proper configuration for rear impact guards on trailers.

Under federal regulations, rear guards must extend the entire width of the trailer, must be no more than 22 inches off the pavement, and must not be more than 12 inches from the rear of the trailer. Properly constructed and configured, underride guards are capable of absorbing a force of over 4,000 pounds per foot. This translates to the force generated by a passenger vehicle traveling approximately 30 miles per hour.

Underride guards, however, do not protect cars traveling at high rates of speed or passenger vehicles that strike a trailer from the side. As always, Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers reminds its clients to drive with care at all times, but particularly around eighteen wheelers.

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The trucking industry is on the cutting edge of technological advancements, and a carrier’s use of advanced monitoring equipment is an important consideration for Maryland truck accident attorneys. In the weeks and months prior to a truck accident trial in Maryland, attorneys engage in a discovery phase and gather information that will reveal how the accident happened. In order to get all of the important facts, truck negligence attorneys must become knowledgeable on any communication or monitoring equipment used by the trucker

Many Maryland truck accidents are caused by a truck’s mechanical failure or a truck driver’s failure to properly maintain his vehicle. For example, the Caterpillar Driver Information Display alerts the driver to important mechanical issues within the big rig. With the aid of a forensic computer analyst an attorney can attempt to retrieve prior alerts and determine whether a driver negligently failed to make necessary repairs to their rig.

Another source of information comes from Qualcomm Products. Qualcomm Products manufactures a series of satellite based communication and monitoring systems that can provide information following a truck accident. Qualcomm systems provide instant messaging, email, and GPS tracking capabilities to motor carriers and their truckers. Following a truck accident, the Qualcomm systems allow a truck driver to immediately transmit their version of events to the home office. Communications between a carrier and a truck driver may shed light on how a truck accident really happened.

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